Being a blogger and with I’m NOT Disordered having such an enormously important part of my life, I regularly find myself in conversations about social media and the digital world in general with a whole host of different people, and everyone has a different opinion of it. I’ve heard people absolutely trash the industry and talk about all the negative consequences it can have on society, especially in so far as online bullying and pressures around body image. Then, there are others who talk about how beneficial it can be in helping to maintain contact with loved ones and providing the opportunity to connect with like-minded people. But no matter which team you’re on, the conversation almost always turns into recognising that whether the internet is your friend or your enemy, you need to learn some coping skills…
Top Tip: Recognise where you have power and influence, and accept when you do not
So, I recently saw a video on social media where a psychiatric service user had called their local Crisis Team saying that they felt unsafe and wanted to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital, and then recorded the staff’s response. The member of staff was heard saying – very coldly – that she’d be interested to know why the service user thought they’d be any safer in hospital because, she said, if the person really wanted to hurt themselves, they would do it and no one could stop them.
I think that one of the many reasons why this frustrated me, was because it’s an attitude/comment that I’ve personally heard too. Back in 2012, when the Police were even worse than they are now with mental health, an Officer said, “if you really want to kill yourself, go off to the woods and hang yourself like that lad a few weeks ago!” What gets to me with comments like this it that a lot of professionals hold the attitude that asking for help and seeking support when you’re feeling suicidal, is a sign that you’re not genuinely thinking that way. But then, those same people – when someone commits suicide – will question why the person didn’t reach out for help first! It’s so completely hypocritical and frustrating.
This frustration is then doubled when you dedicate your experiences in mental illness to improving services and helping others, and realise that regardless of your effort and time, things haven’t even adequately changed. Whilst this isn’t something I’ve experienced with my local NHS mental health Trust (CNTW), it’s definitely something I’ve seen with my local Police force. I spent days helping to facilitate mental health training and then I have an Officer be the very epitome of who I was encouraging Officers not to be like! It makes you question whether you’ve completely wasted your time and you can begin to feel hopeless that nothing will be good enough to change things.
Where this is part of the reason why you struggle with seeing this type of content on social media, please remember that your hard work will have very likely helped at least one person; and try to take comfort and reassurance from thinking about that. Allow that to leave you feeling like your dedication and passion has been worthwhile. Where the content illustrating a failure in psychiatric services feels like something you really can’t do anything about, learn to accept that and continue to do all you can where you can. And if someone is talking about responses from professionals, be aware that you don’t know the ‘full story’ before commenting and providing any sort of reaction or opinion.
Top Tip: Carefully reconsider ‘following’ someone if their content affects your own safety
If you haven’t been reading I’m NOT Disordered for very long then you might now know, but I was actually interviewed and featured on a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary (you can read about it here). In the programme, they were investigating various elements of Facebook and the one they focused on when speaking with me was Facebook’s policy to allow certain content relating to self-harm to stay live because they believed it allowed for the opportunity to get help (in whatever way) for that person. In my TV interview, I told them that I honestly believed that this policy would do so much more harm than good. I could appreciate the theory that people – particularly those who know the person – can take actions to prevent the person either continuing or escalating their self-harm. But I genuinely think that there’s a higher chance of someone seeing self-harm related content online and either taking inspiration from it and copying the method used or feeling so upset and triggered that they go on to harm themselves.
I know this would likely be the case because, when I was in a psychiatric hospital for over two and a half years, another inpatient snuck a sharp object onto the ward and when she managed to get it past the pat-down by staff, she proceeded to pass it on to another inpatient to ‘use.’ And just like that, it was being passed around the ward (though I never saw, received, or used it) until the staff finally clocked on that so many people were exhibiting similar injuries and called a ward lockdown to search everyone’s rooms and refused to let us back into our rooms until someone confessed to bringing the sharp in. I remember saying to the girl everyone was blaming that after knowing the consequences of self-harm, how the hell could she stand back and prompt/enable others to do it too?!
So, having seen this in person – where people literally had the option to walk away from someone – I think it’s fair to say that it can be even harder when the influence/inspiration for self-harm is digital. The fact that it means you can experience this notion no matter where you are – I mean, you could be in your own home (arguably the place you should feel safest) – and it leaves you feeling that there’s no escape from it. And rather than turn your back on the issue, you need to make the more conscious and challenging decision to log out or even to completely turn your technology off.
Fortunately, being in recovery, when I see content like this which I think could easily influence someone to self-harm, I report it to the social media company. Reporting a tweet or post is actually fairly straight forward, the main difficulty is if it comes back as them not considering the content to violate any of their policies. So be prepared for that and know that you’ve done all you can to protect others by reporting it.
Top Tip: Consider how you can help the person, but recognise that you can’t help everyone
When I was in the psychiatric hospital for two and a half years, there was an instance where my discharge date was coming up and one of the other inpatients asked me what the turning point for me had been. I told her there were two things; but probably the main, most powerful one, was when I had run away, made a suicide attempt, ended up on life support, and then been transferred to the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). I explained how it had been a wakeup call and that it made me realise that I didn’t want this to be my life; I didn’t want to keep trying to kill myself and ending up being so physically poorly after it. And I definitely didn’t want to be on the PICU that I’d heard so many horror stories about (including one patient killing another – which wasn’t a ‘story’ it was actual fact; I was an inpatient there when it happened).
The next thing I knew, this other inpatient was attempting to do all that I had, and the staff were telling her that they knew why she was doing it and that they wouldn’t be putting her on the PICU because she wasn’t ‘genuinely poorly.’ Meanwhile, I spent days crying over the thought that I had influenced someone else to do the things I hated to have experienced myself, so I didn’t like the thought of anyone else going through that too. I felt completely blameworthy if anything happened to her, but the staff and other inpatients encouraged me to focus on the fact that this girl was a grown person, and she was well enough to make the decision as to whether what I said would make her do the same or recognise it as instilling hope. I’d wanted her to see that I had gone from the worst time in my life and made it out the other end. I wanted her to know she could too. And the staff explained that you can do everything with the best intentions but if someone has a particular mindset – especially around feeling suicidal – there has to be a degree of responsibility on their part.
The notion that I had caused someone to take actions that might jeopardise their safety was seriously distressing, but it led to me putting more effort into my blog’s content to ensure that I didn’t ever feel that way again. To ensure that my words actually helped someone to find determination and dedication to recover and to maintain their safety and general wellbeing. And believe me, being told I’ve given someone strength and hope, feels a whole lot better than the complete opposite.
Now, in all honesty, regardless of how much content I’ve seen online, that had the potential to encourage suicidal thoughts and feelings in me, I have never experienced that. I think it’s because I have such a positive view of the digital world – blogging and social media have helped my mental health so much – and I think that contributes to me taking a more robust attitude to content relating to suicide. And, in a way, this isn’t great because it almost feels like rose-tinted sunglasses that shield me from reality or at least from having a more balanced view.
I think that aside from influencing someone to feel suicidal, there’s also the other side of someone’s content being about suicide. And this is where the ‘top tip’ comes in – because it’s so important that you recognise that what you can do to help that person might be pretty limited. I’ve seen a lot of people using accounts where they don’t disclose their name or their location and then they’ll voice feeling suicidal – or even that they’ve made an attempt – and it’s pretty obvious that no one can do anything about it. That can be so frustrating because you can still be invested in some sort of relationship with the anonymous person and feel genuinely upset that they’re struggling. But it’s important to recognise that as much as you may want, that doesn’t mean you can do anything to help. You know, my Mum always said that when I was going to self-harm or make a suicide attempt then it would be like I was in a tunnel and nothing anyone did or said would make a difference. So, if you do offer help and support, please don’t feel like a failure if you don’t influence a change.
Top Tip: Take time to appreciate a person’s motivation for producing content that does this
So, there’s this girl on YouTube and social media who posts numerous photos of herself (often in very ‘skimpy’ outfits) with a very well evidenced Eating Disorder (namely, Anorexia Nervosa). Now, firstly; of course, I don’t mean that those with an Eating Disorder shouldn’t take selfies(!); it’s the fact that she never talks nor recognise her diagnosis or the impact her content is having on others. And this begs the question: why would you produce such content?
Considering a person’s motivation for their content – especially where it’s content that can inspire a negative impact on readers/followers – can be so essential to controlling the response that person/their content receives. I mean, if someone were to post healed self-harm scars, explaining that they want it to illustrate recovery. That in showing that they were now safe and well, might reassure others that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Or, you could have someone doing the complete opposite and posting content that either asks for self-harm methods or is initiating a sense of a very unsafe competition. Now, you might read that and be genuinely surprised that anyone would even create such content; but believe me, it exists. It’s like this thing I’ve always said when people talk about the negatives of social media and I say that I think it’s important to recognise that if you go online, you can find whatever you look for. I mean, if you Google support groups, you’ll come across a whole host of them. If you search for ‘thinspiration’ or suicide methods etc., you will definitely find them too!
Another exhibition of mental illness I’ve seen on social media, is paranoia, and in all honesty, that has been the most challenging for me to see/read. Having experienced hallucinations and ‘psychotic beliefs’ that led to a diagnosis of Transient Psychosis, I kind of struggle to accept that I can be completely balanced and in reality, yet I could see content that insinuates the creator is completely removed from that and experiencing the exact opposite. Like, it’s strange to think that whilst you stand steady, someone else is falling.
Another situation that might be hard to believe it actually happened, was when this one person kept posting very paranoid tweets about people coming to get her and there being cameras hidden everywhere etc. and a few others started commenting on the tweets saying they found it hard to believe (that’s me putting it nicely!) she would be so paranoid and mentally ill, yet still able to use Twitter. And, almost always, those people had literally no personal experience of anything even remotely resembling what the person was struggling with. Now, I recognise that there can be multiple people with the same diagnosis, but that doesn’t mean they all experience them in the same way – and this is definitely true about psychosis and hallucinations. But, from what I’ve experienced, I know that sometimes it’d feel as though my brain was split – part of it was grounded and the other part was hovering above my head just, kind of dazed and floating around. And the part of my brain that was still on planet Earth would be desperately trying to coax the other bit down and flailing, trying to grasp at anything that might have the most remote chance to help it. Sometimes, this meant I would do something quite serious like self-harm; almost as a way to wake myself up and shrug off the dazed fog surrounding part of me. As though some actual pain would help me find my footing again. Perhaps this person was tweeting to remain in reality. Or perhaps it’s like what I do with these ‘psychotic beliefs.’ I try to write them down so that I can see them on paper; out of my head and able to illustrate how completely fictional they are.
I guess that the largest message I want to get across regarding this type of content, is about recognising that people produce content for different reasons – even if it’s of a similar nature – and if their motivation isn’t even known never mind understood, then it’s definitely not for someone else to jump in and judge or criticise them.
Top Tip: Remember that even the people you look up to have people they look up to
There’s a lot of media/press on the fact that social media can really instil a sense of competition and perfectionism. This is mostly viewed to be a result of the many different editing tools (particularly the use of filters) there are now for photos and videos. It can be almost incredibly straightforward to add a ‘thigh gap’ or remove an entire tree or something from a scenic selfie! And this changing of details can very easily – and understandably – lead to someone feeling inadequate or worrying that they’re somewhat ‘different’ in a negative and unhealthy way which can bring on notions of isolation and shame (two very difficult feelings that can pose a huge challenge to maintaining good mental health).
When I was younger (like, 16 – 21) I was told that if my menstrual cycle hadn’t still been regular, I would’ve matched the criteria for a diagnosis of Anorexia; and I think I was fortunate that it was back when there really wasn’t much to the digital world… I think my computer was mainly used for playing The Sims, MSN messenger, and updating Myspace! And that meant the possibility of finding what is now referred to as ‘thinspiration’ or ‘pro-ana’ content was limited and massively reduced compared to the abundance of it that now floods and overwhelms the internet. It’s almost become having to actually make a conscious decision to close down or avoid content like this rather than it be about only seeing it if you’ve actively searched for it. And this almost constant onslaught of celebrities being underweight or people sharing ‘diet’ tips, can be so incredibly triggering to a lot of people, but especially when someone has an Eating Disorder.
The confidence destroying element of the digital world that I used to experience was when I would look at other blogger’s social media accounts and see their lifestyle and their achievements in collaborating with huge companies and reaching millions of readers… It left me feeling completely inadequate and I lost a lot of confidence and certainty in I’m NOT Disordered’s potential. I mean, I started blogging with no real intention of it becoming all that it is today, so in the beginning, I had no real inspiration. There was no other blogger I admired. No blog that I wanted to model my own on. My genuine priority was simply to be able to document my recovery in a way that friends and family could see it too.
When, after a year or so, I realised that my blog was becoming a lot more than just a thing I did when I had some free time; and so, I sort of ended up finding myself in the midst of the blogging world and that’s when I began actively looking to others for inspiration. I think that was mostly because even though I now recognised – and wanted to be – part of that industry, I still felt really unsure and lacked confidence. But the challenging thing was, the bloggers I really admired (mainly Zoe Sugg and Victoria Magrath) aren’t exactly mental health bloggers – well, Victoria especially isn’t because her blog inthefrow.com centres around fashion and beauty (though she does do ‘lifestyle’ content on the odd occasion)! So, at first, whilst I was attracted to their blogs for the content (I kind of really like beauty and fashion!), I realised that it was actually qualities and their more general achievements that I admired… I loved how grounded Zoe stayed whilst her blog and YouTube channel (known as ‘Zoella’) gained more and more publicity that meant she was offered some amazing opportunities. She always seemed to recognise how lucky she was. And Victoria – regardless of her number of followers or the incredible collaborations she has – is always grateful and seems to never just rest on her laurels as though expecting everything to now be handed to her on a silver platter.
Through my admiration for these qualities, I’ve tried to drill some of that dedication, determination, and passion into my own blogging. But one thing I initially struggled with in admiring Zoe and Victoria was that I couldn’t just outright take inspiration from the themes or angles of their content because they were so removed from mental health. So, when I saw Victoria collaborating with huge, luxury fashion and beauty brands, I turned my creativity skills up and tried to think of people or organisations that I felt were their equivalent in the mental health world! And when Zoe would blog ‘Top Secrets to…’ or ‘The Rules of…’ I took the angle and ran with it, in a bid to make it applicable to mental health.
Admittedly, I sometimes feel a little inadequate or question the strengths of my blog and its impact, but I try to use it as a drive to continue blogging and do all that I can to achieve my dreams; whilst always keeping that Top Tip in mind.
Top Tip: Weigh up how it’ll feel to express your opinion with the chance of getting backlash
When I began collaborating with my local Police force, I became so much more aware and cautious around posting or commenting on anything even remotely or potentially controversial on social media. That meant it was kind of a self-preserving move because I worried that voicing my opinions would result in losing my role in facilitating mental health training for the new Police recruits. I was pretty convinced that the staff I worked with would see me get involved in a feud and be concerned that my thoughts would reflect back on them in some potentially terrible way that would affect the already unstable public opinion that surrounded them.
In the beginning of making the decision to keep quiet, I actually really struggled with it… When the abuse began and then when my mental health first deteriorated, I – for so many reasons – stayed silent. I didn’t tell anyone what I was experiencing, I didn’t ask for help or get support; and it wasn’t until things got really unsafe that I recognised if I’d spoken up sooner, things might not have gotten to that potentially life-threatening point that they did. But realising and accepting this, didn’t mean that I was instantly encouraged to talk to professionals more; just that I could now see that doing so could end up being beneficial. And I’m so grateful for that lesson because it’s been a huge, contributing factor to my decision to create I’m NOT Disordered and start blogging.
Since my blog’s popularity has grown over the years (mostly the last three!), I’ve found the gravity of those numbers/people to be an even larger reason not to publicly speak up about controversial topics. Now, I think it’s pretty damn reasonable to summarise that not all of the over one million readers will hold the same thoughts and feelings as one another; and that fact keeps me cautious when creating my content… This was kind of challenging at first though, because when my target audience was purely my friends and family, I felt I could really speak my mind and be open and honest. But the increase has left me feeling somewhat regulated and controlled. And initially this didn’t sit well with me; but I recognised that I appreciated my readers so much that I developed the Top Tip and began weighing up how relieving expressing my opinion would be with how overwhelming the potential backlash could be.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of people out there who either don’t consider this or who do and come to the conclusion of spreading their opinion everywhere and ensuring it has the biggest impact imaginable! I’ve found that where I have seen others expressing something that really clashes with my own thoughts, but I decide not to chip in, it’s been helpful to put my opinion somewhere less public e.g., in a message to a friend or family or even just in the ‘notes’ section of my phone. That way I’ve kind of ‘got it out’ and it doesn’t feel as though it’s bubbling inside of me, tempting me to just burst into a flurry of rants! But, when seeing someone’s opinion that you really disagree with, I think it’s worth remembering that everyone is entitled to their own thoughts, and if you do decide to react; do so in a way that you would want others to react to your own controversial social media posts.
Top Tip: Offer the same empathy and respect you would want at such a time
I think one huge inspiration for this part of the blog post is the death of Queen Elizabeth II that happened just a couple of weeks ago. I think that out of the many things the loss brought about, one hugely relevant one here was the fact that once the media had its teeth in something, you’d be hard pressed to escape it. I mean, I saw so many posts on social media from people saying that whilst they weren’t huge ‘royalists’ they were saddened by the Queen’s death, but that they still found the media’s coverage pretty overwhelming. In fairness, it was kind of like, everywhere you looked – every device you turned on – you were bombarded with content about her life, her death, her funeral, the process and procedures her family were now going through… The greatest example of this, for me, was when I was at an Orthopaedics appointment on the day of her funeral and in the waiting room, the staff were playing it on an open laptop propped up on a table, and when there was a two-minute silence, a Nurse announced it to the waiting room. It really illustrated that you could even be purposely avoiding watching the funeral by attending a hospital appointment (which I wasn’t – I actually would’ve watched it if I’d been home), and there was still no escape!
Having such much media coverage of her passing meant that there was a lot of opportunities for some nasty comments and arguments between those who whole-heartedly support the Royal Family and all they do and mean for the country, those who don’t have the passion but believe in being respectful, and those who have completely opposing views and opinions. Now, for me, I like to find balance in everything, and so I resisted bombarding followers with content revolving around the Queen and so I simply acknowledged it, said that I was thinking of the rest of her family, and posted a really sweet illustration of her with Paddington Bear that I had come across.
In all honesty, it was kind of challenging because her death had brought up a lot of memories, thoughts, and emotions from losing my Nana; and I didn’t want to talk about that because I knew it would risk me being called selfish and that I was making it all about me. Choosing to keep quiet about the fact this was triggering those things, I was still fully aware that it would mean if someone else felt triggered of memories from a loved one passing, they might feel alone in that or feel that they couldn’t talk about it. And I honestly hate the thought of that – it’s actually a reason why I try to stay as open and honest as possible on I’m NOT Disordered – because I know what it feels like to feel so isolated and as though you’re the only person in the world going through what you are. Which is something that can be especially difficult in death and mourning because even if two people have lost the same person, they will experience grief differently.
Having that difference in coping with loss, doesn’t mean that you can’t be supported or helped though. It doesn’t mean no one in the world will appreciate or recognise your thoughts and feelings. And, talking about them online maximises the opportunity for someone else to be able to offer you advice or support based on them feeling so much empathy and recognition through your content. So please keep in mind that if you see someone talking about their grief online, it might be in a desperate attempt to rally some sort of understanding from literally anyone. And let that mean that you just take some time away from their account and content for a short while.
Top Tip: There are ‘report’ and ‘block’ functions for this exact reason
Similarly, to the notion that the Queen’s death was unescapable, online bullying can feel that way too. When I was fifteen, some girls (who I thought were friends) began bullying me via MSN Messenger (anyone old enough to remember that?!). They would log in on one of their accounts but claim to not be that person and to be my ‘worst nightmare,’ then they’d proceed to call me a ‘bag of bones’ and say they had no idea what my boyfriend saw in me. I recognise that even though it also went on in school, this is very much not to the degree bullying can be these days; but it still means I understand the feeling that you can’t get away from them – the bullies. That there’s no escape. That nowhere is safe. And that can leave you with a desperation to escape – and this, is often why suicide comes into things.
A lot of the time, online bullies seem to be either anonymous accounts or accounts with fake names and very few/no followers, and it leaves you questioning whether it’s pure jealousy. I mean, how exciting can someone’s life be if they just spend their time writing horrible comments on the internet?! And what do they even get from doing it? Thing is, considering their motive, doesn’t always change your reaction and response. At the end of the day, no matter who they are or why they’re saying it, someone is being nasty and spiteful on a forum where so many others could see, and it can influence (positively or negatively) their opinion of you too – a notion that’s actually really frustrating because it’s almost like people have made assumptions without giving you a chance to prove or disprove them. But this is the power of the digital world – it can very much be a ‘judge-a-book-by-its-cover’ sort of environment; and this becomes particularly existent with social media users who regularly create and publish content around free holidays and hotel stays, gifted beauty products, loaned luxury fashion pieces, and various special discounts.
The recent movement, publicity, and promotion of digital influencers has had a huge impact on the way people can perceive your content. It seems that it’s become more likely that followers would develop one of two attitudes: either that a ‘influencer’ is bragging and boasting by posting such content, or that their life is somehow ‘perfect;’ that they’re ‘lucky’ and ‘blessed,’ and that calls into question the view as to whether they’re taking these things ‘for granted’ or are being ‘unappreciative’ in some way.
When I first began blogging, I had very little confidence or reason to talk about it to anyone and everyone! I mean, I didn’t consider it to be important to anyone but me – it was intended to help my friends and family know about how I was feeling, what I was thinking, and all that I was experiencing in the psychiatric hospital over 100 miles away from them. I had no real reason or need to spread the word about its existence… Well, not until my target audience began mentioning it to others and the reader count began to rise to the point where I began receiving feedback from people saying that my content had helped them in various ways. Mostly, it was that being open and honest about my mental health encouraged readers to also speak up and seek help, and in doing so; they experienced a degree of hope for recovery. Recognising the potential my blog had to help others, gave me a real reason to be more vocal about its existence.
Initially, the new encouragement to advertise and publicise my blog was a bit of a strange notion because I had become so used to putting myself down and being overly critical of anything I was actually doing well and succeeding at. But my desire to help others in ways which I wished I could’ve experienced through my mental illness journey, shone through and I pushed through the anxiety and sheer terror at any backlash I might get from online bullies who might see my new-found confidence as a shameful self-promotion.
Now, with the statistics of trolling being so high, it’s also very likely that you’ll witness the bullying of someone else online. In this case; couple of quick tips:
1. If you feel compelled to publicly insert yourself into the situation, do so with the understanding that the bully/bullies might very likely turn on you
2. There’s nothing wrong with asking the person being bullied if they’re ok and offering your support in a private message
3. If you want to ‘report’ the bully to the social platform they are using, ensure you know their rules and procedures to avoid disappointment if they don’t agree with your report
4. Seek help and support yourself if the bullying is triggering/affecting your mental health
Top Tip: Appreciate that not everyone uses ‘Trigger Warnings’ on their content
Adding a ‘Trigger Warning’ or ‘TW’ to the beginning of online content was something I actually wasn’t aware of until a little while into my blogging career; and, fortunately, I learned of it through chance and not because someone was upset, I hadn’t used a TW on a blog post. And to be honest, if someone were to get in touch for that reason, I genuinely imagine that I would be more than understanding with them; because one of the many things I’ve learnt over the years is that different things can trigger different people and it’s important they’re all shown respect and validation. It really shouldn’t be a case of someone saying your content was triggering and you getting into a feud about how you didn’t think it should be. It is so important that you take responsibility for the things you post online by recognising that it all has some sort of impact (in a good or bad way) on someone else, and that their response might not always be what you had predicted, assumed, or hoped for.
In many aspects of the digital world, it can be really important to find balance, but where this is concerned… I mean, it’s important that you recognise you chose to post whatever you have, but it’s equally important that you don’t experience any unhealthy or unsafe thoughts and feelings in considering yourself as blame worthy. If you genuinely had no bad intentions and have empathy for the person affected by your content, then please don’t consider yourself as warranting any sort of punishment or hardship.
Like I said, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have not had someone contact me for the absence of a ‘TW’ on I’m NOT Disordered, but I wonder if that’s because I typically try to keep possible trigger words in the title of the post so that it is clear from the very offset which subjects will be featured in it. I do this, because I have been the person who has been triggered by someone else’s content – a few times, actually! The first, was with a lengthy Facebook post that turned out to be about self-harm, but I didn’t notice that until I’d been reading it for a good few minutes. It hadn’t been predictable; I hadn’t been able to prepare myself to read that. And isn’t this what a TW is all about? Providing a follower or reader the opportunity to prepare themselves to read triggering content. Providing them with the ability to have some control over the situation because a TW meant they were given the option of reading the content or completely bypassing it. And, in mental health, control can be so important in providing a vulnerable person, a person who feels that their illness is ruling their lives, with the notion that they still have some power. Some say over what happens to them.
Another instance where I felt triggered, was perhaps a more difficult one because the content that triggered me was, admittedly, very unique to my own trauma. It took the form of a Twitter thread and the category of the place I was abused, was mentioned numerous times. Now, the reason this was so difficult was because I felt completely unable to speak up; I mean, these triggers were very unlikely to mean the same to others as they did to me. So how could I tell someone that they should’ve included a TW for something that no one else might care about?! To be honest, it left me feeling kind of lonely and isolated, which was another stark reminder of exactly how I’d felt during the actual abuse.
Another element of balance to Trigger Warnings, is around the recognition that you can’t always avoid every single trigger you might have – there might even be some you haven’t discovered yet and can’t know to avoid! So, there needs to be some sort of realisation that perhaps sometimes, being triggered can be helpful. I mean, it can provide the opportunity to utilise your therapeutic coping skills and allow you to see that they are helpful. However, it’s so important that you recognise when the triggering becomes overwhelming and is leading to unsafe thoughts and feelings, that’s the time to really take a step back. Enough is enough.
Finally, a word about attention-seeking…
Social media and the digital world in general, can arguably viewed as the largest platform to utilise when seeking attention. I mean, by simple definition, isn’t the simple act of publishing content online a form of attention-seeking? How many people post content with the genuine hope and wish that no one sees it – that it draws absolutely no attention?! And so, I think people need to be a lot more mindful before throwing this term around.